I would like to take a moment to remember Rod, and some of the great things he did for the game of baseball.
I met Rod in 1963. At that time he was the head baseball coach at the University of Southern California. By the end of his career he put in about 44 years at USC, and was selected as the College Baseball Coach of the Century, which was just one of his many honors.
Believe me, that was a well deserved acclaim.
I heard a lot about Rod before I met him because I had played with guys who had played for him at USC. They all had great things to say.
So I knew a lot about him, but he didn’t know anything about me. I was a scout for the Dodgers and had just moved to Southern California from Pennsylvania.
Upon meeting him, we became instant friends, and until the day he died two years ago last Monday, we were inseparable. We would go to the same functions, speak together in front of crowds, our families became friends and we would just go everywhere together. He would take me to the Coliseum for football games, and for 40+ years, every SC football game I went to was with Rod.
Since the two years he’s been gone I haven’t been back to an SC game yet. I just can’t do it. I just can’t walk into the Coliseum without him.
I miss him tremendously.
But he was a great coach. Everybody loved the guy. His interest was not just about college baseball, but he worked very hard to build a bridge with Japanese baseball. When I was selected as the manager of the 2000 USA Olympic team, I took him with me. He was the coach of our Olympic team for many years, but was never able to win a Gold Medal.
Rod spent a month with me and my team in Sydney. The kids on our team just loved him. He played a vital role in us winning that gold medal because he spent as much time as he could talking to each of the players and helping them believe in themselves, and helping them get better.
He was great at that. He was a wizard when it came to handling players. He could get the maximum from each player, and got them to play for the name on the front of the jersey and not for the name on the back.
Losing Rod was like losing a brother.